Albuquerque slips in ranking of places to film

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Molly Parker, far right, played by Tricia Helfer, in the new TV show "Killer Women." The show was one of 14 projects filmed in Albuquerque in 2013. (Courtesy of Ursula Coyote/ABC)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque has slipped out of the Top 10 list for best sites to make films – despite having more projects last year than the year before.

This is according to MovieMaker’s annual list of “best places to live and work as a moviemaker” list.

Albuquerque has ranked in the top 10 the last five years – ranking as high as No. 1 in 2010 – but dropped to No. 11 in the trade magazine’s 2014 list.

The MovieMaker criteria were based on film production in 2013 (shooting days, number of productions, dollars generated), film community and culture (film schools, festivals, independent theaters, film organizations), access to equipment and facilities, tax incentives, cost of living and a general category that included lifestyle, weather and transportation.

In 2013, Albuquerque actually had more projects than the year before – 14 compared to 13 projects in 2012. But the city didn’t have a big-budget film last year, while 2012 had “The Lone Ranger,” “We’re the Millers” and “Lone Survivor.” “The Lone Ranger” alone had a $200 million-plus budget, whereas “Transendence” was the biggest last year with a $50 million-plus budget.

According to MovieMaker, the top city, Chicago, got red hot with action and sci-fi films like “Jupiter Ascending,” “Divergent,” “Jack Ryan,” “The Vatican Tapes,” “Transformers 4” and “A Conspiracy on Jekyll Island.”

According to the New Mexico Film Office, during the first two quarters of fiscal year 2014, the direct spend to the New Mexico economy has been $55.3 million.

“Over the years, many cities have come and gone from these rankings,” the article states. “Detroit and Atlanta dropped off the list this year while Memphis, San Francisco, and Chicago all cracked the Top 10 Big Cities. There’s a heavy dose of Louisiana and North Carolina, states which still have hard-to-beat incentive packages.”

The top 10 this year are Chicago, New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Memphis, Tenn., and San Francisco. Last year, Albuquerque was ranked at No. 8 and was No. 3 in 2012.

New Mexico’s film incentives are considered competitive in the industry. The state currently offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures. Under a bill passed in the last legislative session, long-running television shows would also be eligible for an additional 5 percent credit – or 30 percent in all. There is also a $50 million spending limit on the film rebates.

“Albuquerque is still No. 1 in my book to work in film,” said Ann Lerner, city of Albuquerque’s film liaison. “We just missed the list but we’re buzzing with projects.”

The New Mexico Film Office announced Monday that the film “Good Kill” will begin production at the end of February. It stars January Jones, Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kravitz and Jake Abel.

According to the Internet Movie Database, the film’s budget is projected at over $10 million.

According to the film office, the production will be comprised of 95 percent New Mexico residents, with nearly 140 crew members and 15 actors and 200 local background talent.

It is about a Las Vegas, Nev., military pilot who begins to question his mission after he is assigned to pilot a remote-controlled drone to fight the Taliban 12 hours a day.

Lerner said Andrew Niccol is directing the film and returns to shoot another project in New Mexico.

“I scouted with Andrew last March for this film,” she said. “He shot the film ‘The Host’ here and it’s great when filmmakers return to shoot another project here.”

The film will be based at I-25 Studios.

Nick Maniatis, director of the state film office, said having filmmakers return to New Mexico helps build some confidence for the industry.

“When they come back, I hope it’s because they had a great experience here,” Maniatis said. “It means that our crews and studios are doing a great job.”

“We have big projects and small projects,” Lerner said. “Albuquerque also doubled for a lot of places. For the TV series ‘The Night Shift’ and ‘Killer Women,’ we doubled for San Antonio, (Texas).”

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Filming for the Johnny Depp sci-fi film “Transendence” last year in Downtown Albuquerque. The facades of the businesses on Gold Street were transformed into storefronts of Berkeley, Calif. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

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